The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Iason Athanasiadis

Iason in Tehran, Washington Times

The drama unfolding in Iran has many victims, and it may seem arbitrary to focus on any single one of them. But professional solidarity and personal acquaintance move me to speak out for the release of Iason Athanasiadis, a reporter and photographer who has worked on Iran for several years and was arrested on June 20 while reporting for the Washington Times. I have known Iason for nearly a decade, from when he lived in Cairo and worked at al-Ahram Weekly. He is a stellar linguist and journalist.

The work Iason and other reporters operating in Iran is crucial to information about the evolving situation getting out, potentially influencing the outcome of the crisis. The Iranian regime, by booting out most reporters and now arresting those who remain, is only communicating one thing: that it is afraid of what is happening in the country, and afraid of transparency about its political process, the state of freedom of speech and freedom of association in Iran. His detention only underlines these fears, discrediting the regime's claims that it is trying to find fair, political answers to the questions raised by the recent flawed election.

Although one hopes that the Iranian authorities will treat Iason well and release him soon - as a Greek-British national he may have more cover than the hundreds of Iranians now in jail - we cannot be sure. The uncertain outcome of the situation in Iran and a past record of prosecuting journalists unfairly do not bode well. My solidarity goes to him and his family, as well as to the Iranian people who have had the courage to fight for the right to appoint leaders of their choosing.